Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear said yesterday that he is exploring the possibility of allowing charter school legislation to be added to the agenda of the forthcoming special session. The purpose of the special legislative session will be to finally draft a state budget. The charter schools issue is expected to be the measure needed to overcome the budget stalemate and keep the state from drowning in the financial turmoil that is sure to come if a budget is not passed soon. Again, education rises to the top of Kentucky politics. What is really the issue, however, is that charter schools will be exempt from past, or future, education reform acts.
Kentucky is one of only ten states that have not signed charter school legislation into law. While Kentucky was one of the 16 finalists in the running for the national Race to the Top funding, it was not one of the two states that receive the money in the first round because of 32 points that were lost from not allowing for charter schools. Certainly, Kentucky will not receive any Race to the Top funding if charter school legislation is not passed. If it is passed, this could mean $175 million worth of funding that will help Kentucky implement the new guidelines introduced in the “Senate Bill 1” legislation.
Charter schools are schools that receive public money and are therefore still a part of the public education system. Yet, if legislation is passed, they will not be forced to follow state education guidelines or reform mandates. Instead, they will be governed by charters issued by the Board of Education. Many Kentucky Democrats argue that this amounts to the creation of private schools that receive public funding. They have generally been opposed to charter school legislation, along with the Kentucky Education Association and most district superintendents.
Usually, nonprofits, colleges, or other government entities are allowed to create these special schools, which are given the freedom to hire whomever they want, and pay them whatever they want. The charters will include higher performance standards. If a school does not perform, its charter would then be revoked. The goal of a charter school is, supposedly, to create a learning environment that brings out the best in the teachers and the students. The problem is that these schools will receive public funds while remaining insulated from most Kentucky education reform efforts.
(Image provided by Arvind Balaraman. His portfolio can be found at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1058)